By Professor Harvey Wangenstein, Electrodyne Engineer
June 26, 1878
The War Between the States ended thirteen years ago, yet the human cost of that great struggle remains with us to this day. Over one million men were killed or wounded as a result of the war: a figure that staggers the senses. If Science can guide Mankind in any way in the arena of Martial Development, it must be toward less lethal methods of resolving conflict. While men may never completely abandon the use of physical force to settle their differences, if we as Men of Science can use our influence to introduce weapons which merely incapacitate rather than annihilate one's enemies, we will have done nothing less than our duty to Humanity. For the more practical among us, the degree of waste, both in material and in lost manpower from war should be more than enough to engender an interest in the search for alternatives to bloodshed. As a small part of my own contribution to this effort, I now present the Thermopneumatic Gun.
The Gun is based upon the same principle as that of conventional firearms: the rapid expansion of heated gases within a confining space. In an ordinary rifle, this is achieved through the ignition of gunpowder behind the projectile to be fired. The burning gunpowder heats the air so quickly that it propels the bullet out of the barrel at a high velocity. Here, however, is where the similarity between rifle and Thermopneumatic Gun ceases. Where the rifle utilizes volatile and unpredictable gunpowder, the Gun uses clean, efficient electricity to heat the air. And instead of firing lead bullets at its target, the Gun makes a projectile of the air itself.
When the trigger is pulled, a cylinder of highly compressed air is opened. As the released air speeds into the Gun's firing chamber, it turns a turbine, converting the air's flow into mechanical power. This in turn runs a generator, producing enormous amounts of electricity in the process. The newly generated electricity powers an electric arc furnace within the firing chamber. The immense heat of the furnace superheats the air to such a degree that it explodes forth from the gun at an incredibly high rate of speed. The heated air, moving at many hundreds of miles per hour, strikes its target with enough force to knock a grown man off his feet. From personal knowledge, I can safely say that the experience is not unlike being struck with a large, blunt instrument. Furthermore, extensive testing has shown that just one or two exposures should be sufficient to render a man unconscious or even batter through wood planks or thin metal sheeting.
While the Thermopneumatic Gun is designed as a non-lethal, non-damaging weapon, it should be noted that repeated and/or point-blank exposures can and will do lasting damage to a target. Care should be taken when administering successive exposures to a living target to avoid serious injury.
The above effects are typical of an approximately rifle-sized Gun, suitable for infantry use. Of course, the true size limits for the Thermopneumatic Gun are, as yet, unknown. By utilizing a larger air tank or arc furnace, or a more efficient turbine, a larger, gattling gun-sized model could be built. Furthermore, even larger wagon- or flatbed-mounted Guns would carry the necessarily large and unwieldy compressed air tanks with it. An entire enemy encampment could be blasted at one time with a Thermopneumatic Cannon, incapacitating an entire military unit without any of the fatal side effects typically associated with artillery, such as shrapnel and flames. Governments could use the Gun to quell riots humanely, without firing a single shot or killing a single member of its citizenry.
War is something of an unfortunate pastime for Mankind, and the Nations of the World will almost certainly be drawn into War with one another after today. However, with the Thermopneumatic Gun available to them, the wars of the future may avoid the toll paid by previous generations. We are Men of Science, and it is my hope that, with our council, wise leaders of men will be able to take a page from the lessons learned so very recently by these United States and avoid the carnage and waste of those five, terrible years.
Second Edition. By using the Thermopneumatic Gun and Forces •••, Prime •• or Forces •• with an ambient source of energy (this includes using the compressed air of the charged cylinder), the acting Scientist can propel a volume of air at high velocity towards the target. The damage caused is stun damage, which is handled as follows: The number of Damage Levels is applied, complete with penalties. All stun damage is healed at the end of the current Scene. If the damage passes Incapacitated, the target falls unconscious (unless he spends a point of temporary Willpower to remain conscious). If the target continues to receive stun damage after reaching Incapacitated, it is applied as real damage, requiring the normal amount of time to heal. In this way, it requires a concerted, deliberate effort to kill someone with the Thermopneumatic Gun. Although the air is very hot when it strikes the target, it does not do burn damage, nor will it set fire to flammable objects in the vicinity. Properly used, the Thermopneumatic Gun is safe and effective, and will provide you with years of reliable service.
2000 Derek D. Bass
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